Race Date: Sunday 23rd April 2023
Race Report by: Lisi Briggs
Zürich Marathon hosts three races on the day, the marathon which starts at 8am, the half marathon at 10am, and a 10K at 2pm. Overall there were thus around 12’000 runners present which made for an exciting atmosphere, but even so there were parts of the route along the lake which lacked spectators. It’s a picturesque route though along, past the lake villages, and a loop through the poshest part of the city, the banking district. In the marathon there were around 3’000 participants. The out and back course enabled you to see the inspiring super-human frontrunners, and I think finishing at the same time as the faster half marathoners pulled me along during the final third. However, the fact that as an average runner you shared the final straight with the faster half marathon finishers was also a bit of a letdown, as I felt the marathon achievements were celebrated on par with the half-marathoners – pah! I made up for it though by spottng fellow marathoners trudging themselves bravely to the finish line and motivating them by shouting at them, things like, we can do this, we can finish, they (the fresh looking faster ones passing by without a glance) have only done half as much! I also shouted “marathon is a bitch” quite a few times – it helped me to keep running when my body started aching. I enjoyed finding the eyes of spectators who seemed to realize that I was in the final straight of a marathon and gave me honest well wishes. My favorite one was an older lady who nodded at me and seriously, nonchalantly said “Lisi, just keep running now”. I loved the multi-lingual aspect of my hometown too: I received German (“los los los!”), Swiss German (“hopp hopp hopp!”), French (“allez allez allez!”), and plenty of English well wishes too.
But let’s rewind and start at the beginning. Training went well; I used the Hal Higdon novice 2 plan based on the mileage I had been doing prior to starting training. I love running literature, my favorite being Murakami’s What I talk about when I talk about running, so have identified with the marathon mindset for a long time now and was ready to join in. Sheffield’s hills prepared me well to overcome pain thresholds and gain strength, and keep the joy in running. Thank you to Seth Kirby and Nick Burns for launching the Tuesday evening fell runs. I was also fortunate to share my first few (really) long training runs with fellow experienced striders, such as Dave Beech, from which I reaped all the advice I could. Katelyn McKeown, Tessa Bainbridge, and Kate Waddicor were an inspiration to me, and I leaned on them for advice, especially during the taper period. So, training went well, but the taper – uff, that was absolutely awful. Not running, stopping that constant motion that accompanies my day-to-day life so well, suddenly made me think too much, and not sleep well due to not being knackered physically and lack of that overthinking-drainage that running facilitates. I also felt hyper- aware of my (suddenly still) body and all sorts of niggles appeared, especially shin and glute pain. This also goes to show how much harder it is for me to practice still meditating and yoga, rather than running around/through life! I also didn’t enjoy the carb loading as much as I thought, as with the lack of running, it made me feel sluggish. Matt Rimmer (thank you Matt for your advice and always making yourself available to listen when I drop into the shop and I talk running) made a good point, saying that due to the lack of running during taper, carb loading is just normal eating, not more eating, as you burn less.
The day before the marathon I was thus still boshing the painkillers and ibuprofen gel for my shin – however, turned out I didn’t feel pain during the race at all. When the marathon finally started it was a relief to settle back into the motion of running after that godawful taper, and my body niggles evaporated after a few minutes.
The night before was rather dramatic. There was commotion in the flat below my parents where my sister and her kids live. My sister was away that weekend leaving her teenage kids to be home alone, and my teenage nephew had 3am visitors and they rang the wrong doorbell, prompting my dad, his grandfather, to get up and have a word, and then another, to keep them from smoking on their balcony which is below my guest bedrooms window. Of course it woke me up but didn’t really bother me much; not my own child… And that wasn’t the only nightly drama. The early marathon start time meant I set my alarm to eat porridge (which in hindsight might have been the wrong breakfast, see later) for 5am, that’s 4am UK time. At exactly 5am then my husband rang (he knew of the porridge alarm) with my 5 year old daughter hysterically crying for mummy, working herself up into a coughing fit. So I let her watch me cook and eat the porridge and then we both fell asleep again, with FaceTime still on.
At the start line I made a quick Facebook shoutout to you Striders, my running community (my fellow weirdos), and was also happy to have an English runner recognize the green and gold – a good omen! The race starts on the Quaibrücke, quaibridge, over where the city river, the Limmat, meets the lake. The route first takes you past the opera house out to the edge of the city and start of the city tram lines, to then loop back again towards the opera house. You cross the starting bridge again and head into the city centre along the poshest road in town, Bahnhofstrasse, past Paradeplatz, where the bank headquarters are located. As you reach the central train station, you loop back towards the lake and a bit further to actually pass through the finish line and back to the start line, by which time you’ve now already done 6 miles – one training/warm-up run done and the actual start of the main race, as I told myself, as I’d already completed a 20 mile race in training. All this time I’ve been sticking with the 4:30 pacers, my most ambitious of three goals (the others being under 4:45 and under 5). From training paces, computer and watch race predictions, which were mostly around the 4:45-5 hour mark, I knew that it would be too ambitious a pace, but my plan was to stick with them for as long as it felt comfortable. And it did until shorty before the half way point. At mile 12/13 came my one and only hic-up: I suddenly felt a bit dizzy and with that also had to go the toilet – now! The next porter loo only appeared a precarious half a mile or mile later, during which I had to slow down and walk a bit in order not to have a shameful moment in public. Funnily enough the English lady from the start came out of the loo as I went in, asking me if I was alright. Another good omen again! Back on the road I felt light and relieved, running again. From my splits I can see that from then on, even though I maintained even pace throughout, my pace slowed from around average 6:20 min/km to average around 6:45 min/km, leading to my result of final time of 4:38 hours. To still have been in the 4 hour 30ies is a proud result for me.
As I reached the turnaround along the lake villages, now back towards the city, I started feeling really happy. I knew I would finish. I allowed myself to now listen to my music – a carefully curated playlist with song choices from friends and family, some of which really hit the mark. I kept to my fueling and hydration plan, which was to take a gel or blocks every half an hour and drink at every water station (the last fueling station at 40K offered coca cola – that was a-mazing), which I think stopped me from experiencing the famous marathon “bonk” in the later stage of the race. From around 38K I also allowed myself to walk for the count of 10 a couple of times which really helped keep things moving. Another aspect that really helped me was to partition the race into Striders training runs – first 6 miles warm up, keep calm, next 7 miles another training run to reach half way, next 7 miles a training run, this time one that feels like a hilly training run, and then just another 6 miles training run to finish. And I also of course had the home advantage in this marathon – I enjoyed passing places of my childhood, my primary school, my home village, and seeing my good childhood friend and family cheer me on at various points.
After finishing I felt fine. My normal exertion headache appeared, but not more than usual after a tough race. I enjoyed celebratory crisps and chocolate milk, sushi, and Swiss rösti of course. I even joined my parents at the local pool for some relaxing lengths to stretch out the body and massage the lower back and legs in the warm whirlpool bath (most leisure centres in Switzerland feature some sort of spa area with massage jets etc.) and I chatted with a few other race finishers there while we loosened our limbs. I’ve had a real little holiday weekend here as this has also been a very rare child (and husband!) free time for me – three nights of uninterrupted sleep… perhaps even beats having completed a marathon.
The marathon was won by Kenyan Mark Kiptoo in 02:09:12. The women’s race was won by Ethiopia’s Helen Bekele in 02:24:14.
Well done Lisi!!
The full results can be viewed here.